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Funeral arrangements for the late Tennessee Rep. Barbara Cooper begin| Oldest-serving legislator in state history, dies at 93

Cooper will be laid to rest Saturday, November 5. The funeral will be held at Immaculate Conception Cathedral located at 1695 Central Ave. at 12:30 p.m.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee House Democratic Caucus' Press Secretary confirmed the passing of Tennessee State Rep. Barbara Ward Cooper, was said to have died Tuesday, October 25. Cooper was 93 years old.

Cooper, a Memphis native, served as the Tennessee State Rep. for Shelby County District 86 for 26 years. She was set to run for re-election on the 2022 November 8 General Elections ballot. 

She was first elected in 1996. She served on several state committees including the Health and Safety Committee and the Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee.

Back in April, Cooper was honored in Nashville as the oldest-serving state legislator.

Funeral arrangements

Cooper will be laid to rest Saturday, November 5. The funeral will be held at Immaculate Conception Cathedral located at 1695 Central Ave. at 12:30 p.m.

A visitation will be held on Friday, Nov. 4 at St. Augustine Catholic Church located at 1169 Kerr Ave, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. She was a member of St. Augustine, and she was recognized as an active member of the church.

Cooper will be buried at the West Tennessee Veterans Cemetery.

In remembrance of her

Several of Cooper's peers provided kind words in her remembrance as they learned of her passing.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my longtime colleague and dear friend, Barbara Cooper. She was a warrior for her community and the City of Memphis, a tireless advocate on education and equality issues and just a delightful person. We will all miss her.” - House Minority Leader Karen Camper

"This morning we send our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and supporters of State Representative Barbara Ward Cooper. Rep. Cooper was an icon and history maker in the Tennessee House of Representative. She was a mother figure to all that served with her and she fought vigorously for the voiceless. She will be sorely missed." - State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, Chairman of Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators

Credit: Rep Antonio Parkinson

"I’m saddened to learn of the passing of Representative Barbara Cooper. She was an advocate and servant for her constituents. Will be praying for her family," - Memphis City Councilman Chase Charlisle

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of longtime Tennessee legislator Barbara Cooper, and I offer my prayers and deepest condolences to her family and friends. She loved Memphis and was one of its greatest advocates. She will truly be missed.” - Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, Jr. 

"Citizens For Better Service would like to express our condolences to family,  friends and supporters of Representative Barbara Cooper. As founding chairman of Citizens For Better Service,  I appreciate  and will always treasure the wisdom of Representative Barbara Cooper. The bus riders of this lost a great fighter for justice in public transportation." - Johnnie Mosley - Founding Chairman, Citizens For Better Service 

"We’re incredibly saddened by the news of Rep. Barbara Cooper’s passing. She dedicated her life to serving her community & the State of Tennessee. While we lost a most revered friend & colleague, heaven has gained an angel.  Please take a moment to pray for her family & friends." - TN House Speaker Cameron Sexton

“Representative Cooper will forever hold a special place in all of our hearts. Her service and commitment to a better Memphis and Tennessee will be a benchmark for all of us and generations to come. Her contributions to the Democratic Party and fierce advocacy for our values will continue to guide us.“ - Hendrell Remus, TNDP Chair

“We honor and commemorate the life of a woman that demonstrated wisdom, was skillful in governmental affairs, and served as a respected political leader. She will be missed by many but remembered as an example for generations to come. We will keep her family in our prayers and keep her in our hearts.”Memphis City Councilwoman Patrice J. Robinson

"Representative Barbara Ward Cooper was a dedicated community servant who put her constituents first. She will always have a special place in all of our hearts. Her services and commitment to a better Memphis and Tennessee will be a benchmark for all of us and generations to come. Thank you for your guidance, wisdom and mentoring in all of our lives. Her contributions to education and politics will continue to guide us." - State Executive Committeewoman Rosemary Winters District 33

More about Tennessee State Rep. Barbara Ward Cooper 

Cooper was a graduate of Manassas High School in Memphis. She completed her bachelor's and master's degree from Tennessee State University, and she later earned a doctorate degree in religious philosophy and Christian psychology from the Jackson Theological Seminary.

Cooper was a member of St. Augustine Catholic Church, and she was an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. 

She was heavily involved in other organizations as well, including the NAACP, the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, the National Council of Negro Women, and much more.

Rep. Barbara Ward Cooper is survived by her daughter Reverend Joan Cooper Burnett and daughter Tanya Cooper, as well as her grandchildren, great grandchildren and other loved ones.

Cooper is preceded in death by her husband John D. Cooper, whom she was married to for 55 years, and her son Carl Cooper.


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